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Everything You Need To Know About the Relationship Between the 2016 Summer Olympics and Social Media

It’s time again. Every four years, countries from around the world come together, after years of practice and preparation, to compete in the Olympic summer games.

The last time we were here, Instagram was a recently new phenomenon reserved for “hipsters” only, and people were still “tweeting” on the reg. Oh how things have changed.

Indeed, in the last four years, social media has become even more pervasive; reaching across all age groups and borders as a means of mass communication. Long gone are the days of your parents not being on “the Facebook.” Which begs the question- what role will social media play (pun intended) in this summer’s Olympic games?


According to Brian Yamada, chief innovation officer for VML, the 2016 Olympics will be “the largest social media event ever.” Yamada said this when speaking, in Cannes, with the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) head of marketing, Melinda May.

Similarly, results from a recent Crowdtap survey of 500 U.S. adults also indicate that Rio will be the most “social” Olympics yet. What are the implications of this? With more social media exposure, comes more millennial engagement. The following are some of the findings from the survey that support this correlation.

  • 32% of younger millennial viewers (ages 18-24) said they’ll share Olympic content via Snapchat vs. 19% of older millennials (25-34)
  • Overall, 18% of viewers surveyed said they’ll discuss the Olympics on Snapchat
  • Millennials are 2x more interested in the “cultural chatter” (i.e. human interest stories and meme-worthy moments) than non-millennials

Claudia Page, VP of platform growth and creator partnerships at Crowdtap explains that the goal of the study was to “help brands understand the preferences of Olympic viewers as they plan their content strategy ahead of Rio. Whether brands are signed on as official sponsors or simply want to actively participate in the conversation, the key to success will be identifying the distribution channels and topics that are most relevant for your brand and your audience.”

And Olympic-affiliated businesses are doing exactly that. For example, NBC has partnered with Buzzfeed and Snapchat in an effort to increase millennial viewership. Snapchat’s director of partnerships, Ben Schwerin, said “Through this partnership with NBC Olympics, we’re able to give our Snapchat community the opportunity to dive in and experience the world’s largest sporting event right on their phones.” TBD on whether or not these collaborations will prove successful.

While NBC’s social media push is technically geared toward younger viewers, there will still be plenty to engage older audiences as well. Historically, though, the average viewing age of the summer Olympics has been in the mid to upper 40s. It remains to be seen if this year’s huge social media push will lower median viewer age. If not, perhaps it’s true that really nothing can make millennials look up from their screens, not even a major cultural event.